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Tonight’s The Night – Neil Young

Neil Young Tonight's The Night

Tonight’s The Night

(1975), 8/10
The second of Young’s “Ditch Trilogy” to be recorded but the third to be released, Tonight’s The Night was withheld for two years due to a lack of commercial appeal, eventually appearing after the calmer On The Beach. Recorded with the Crazy Horse rhythm section of Molina and Talbot, as well as Nils Lofgren and Ben Keith, the record is inspired by the drug-related deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist and roadie Bruce Berry. The booklet art includes a pointed Danny Whitten caption under an empty spot on stage, while Whitten’s ‘Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown’, recorded with Young and Crazy Horse at the Fillmore East, is featured, underlining his wasted potential. Meanwhile, Berry is eulogised in the repeated title track: “Bruce Berry was a workin’ man, he used to load that Econoline van.”

There’s a feeling of indifference and weariness, which is matched by the music – there are accessible tunes, but most of them sound not only like they’ve been recorded first take, but that they’ve been recorded first take while drunk. ‘Mellow My Mind’ features probably the most out of tune vocal to ever appear on a major label recording, while Young’s piano playing in ‘Speakin’ Out’ is bordering on incompetent. Most of these songs are downbeat, although the two rockers ‘Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown’ and ‘Lookout Joe’ are far more lightweight, as is the hilariously drawn out chorus hook of ‘Albuquerque’. Elsewhere, Young’s is emphasising beauty; ‘New Mama’ falls into a beautiful wall of harmonies, while “Borrowed Tune’ is gorgeous in its despair. ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Tired Eyes’ are simultaneously anarchic and jaded.

Most of these songs rely on emotion rather than necessarily strong writing, yet as a whole, Tonight’s The Night is captivating and cathartic.

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